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Federal Judge Approves $5.9 Million Settlement for Inmates Affected by Strip-Search Policy

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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania—the city has long since had a procedure that involved strip-searching every person admitted into the city’s prison system. However, a federal judge has finally brought closure to the civil rights suit that challenged that blanket policy.

In fact, the judge approved a $5.9 million settlement that will be divided between two groups: arrestees who were sent to prison on misdemeanor charges and had no previous arrests for drug charges or violent crimes, will receive $1,400 each. The second group of arrestees includes those with riskier claims involving drug or violence charges, and will receive $100 each. Overall, 5,321 individuals filed claims and will receive compensation. Furthermore, the city will also adopt a new policy that replaces strip-searches with non-invasive metal detectors and ion scanners that can detect smuggled weapons.

The lawsuit covered the years between 2003 and 2007 and involved approximately 37,000 inmates who were strip-searched upon entering the Philadelphia prison system. The law firm of Levin, Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, began receiving complaints from their clients that they were forced to submit to “visual cavity searches”. Even new inmates who were held overnight with no bail money were forced to submit to the policy. The lawyers involved in the suit estimated that they spent a total of 2,877.65 hours on the case, and were determined to win. As Levin stated: “[p]eople only see cases when you are successful.”